Clare’s Newborn Feeding Story

Clare @mumsymidwife

👶 Midwife & Blogger
🤰Talking all things pregnancy & parenting
Mum to Isabelle
Lover of coconut mushrooms & cherry bakewells 🍒

I thought I knew what being a mother was like from being a midwife first. I gave birth when I had been qualified for 3 years as a midwife and had a bit of a shock to the system once I passed the threshold to the house.

My profession states that I should promote breastfeeding and not bottle feeding; or at the least only inform of safe ways to make up a formula feed. However, I’m telling my story as a mother and the experience I had with months 0-6 with my daughter so, if you can, imagine I’m not a specialist in maternity and tiny babies.

I couldn’t breastfeed, to be more specific, I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed. I was on medication for my mental health that passes into breastmilk and it was at a level that would effectively medicate my baby. Knowing from day one that it wasn’t an option did make things a bit easier as I could plan what we needed and prepared all the gadgets and kit so that it was an easy transition from the hospital to home.

As a midwife I got a lot of stick for not trying breastfeeding, a lot of people were very judgemental and many even asked me what medication I was on that stopped me feeding. As a person who didn’t really want to announce my diagnosis to everyone I met, this was so incredibly intrusive. The midwives that visited me at home assumed I breastfed and asked me to whip my boobs out to check my nipples – and me being sleep deprived just popped them out without thinking. It made a difficult time in the balance of my mental health much more disheartening. I wanted to and would’ve have done if I could. But that choice was taken out of my hands.

At the hospital I delivered at we had to take bottles of premade milk as they didn’t stock any for people to use, however some places do have it to give out as needed. Pre-made did make life very easy as there was no need to boil kettles and wait for things to cool down at a time when getting used to life with a child was very overwhelming, but it was EXPENSIVE. As soon as we got home we transferred to powder and used an electric steriliser to get the bottles ready.

Choosing a brand was a bit of trial and error, in our area certain brands were in short supply so we transferred from one to another quite early on. Part of the reason we changed was due to colic and lactose intolerance.

As we got into a routine things became second nature, like putting on the steriliser in the morning and afternoon, washing up all the bits and preempting feeds so that we could prepare them to cool in time for when her naps ended. She gained weight well and met her growth curve consistently and seemed to enjoy her milk. Going out, although much more complex than breastfeeding with bottles powder and hot water, was ok. It involved a lot of planning and we rarely went out before about 11 am, even with a 5am wake up. It was all doable.

As weaning was on the horizon, we started to drop the night time feeds and from about 4 months we would go from 11am to 5am almost every night. We got my daughter used to “dream feeds” which involved getting her out of the cot and feeding her whilst she stayed asleep. They improved her length and quality of sleep and meant we didn’t have the post-feed battle to get her back down and settled.

One thing I haven’t really touched on is the role my husband had in it all. I had a significant mental health dip about 1-2 months post birth and relied on him heavily, he took the brunt of the night feeds and supported me when I needed that extra crutch. We used to split the nights – he had her until 2am and I then had her until morning. It meant I got a wedge of unbroken sleep and it worked well for us. I learned early on to accept the support offered and not to try and do it all alone. I would’ve managed on my own but having him there was invaluable.

6 months felt like an age at the time when I was in the thick of it, it felt like the sleepless nights would never end, but looking back now it was a short period of time.

If you are currently in the throes of the fourth trimester I feel for you. It is HARD but you will get through it. The saying “this too shall pass” couldn’t be truer. Sleep when you can; feed however you like (as long as it’s safe) and survive! You can do this.